Ideas, advice, and what to make now from the Chowhound community and CHOW editors.
Paneer, the fresh Indian cheese, which can be bought fresh or frozen or easily made at home, is great in many non-Indian guises, according to hounds.
Great ideas for using paneer:
• Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with za'atar and serve with pita as an Arab-style mezze.
• Marinate cubes in vinaigrette and add to salad, add to vegetable soup at serving time, or mash and use in a sandwich.
• Cut into thin slices, pan fry, and use in a sandwich.
• Thread cubes on skewers with vegetables, marinate, and grill.
• Use in place of Mexican queso blanco.
If you make your own paneer, "you can add all kinds of seasonings to the curds as you lift them from the whey, says fromagina, "just gently fork them into the hot curd before twisting the cloth and pressing." She adds dried onion and garlic and hot pepper flakes, and uses the cheese for Mexican dishes; or small pieces of dried fruit, cinnamon, and brown sugar, and crumbles the cheese to serve atop waffles.
Discuss: Non-Indian uses for paneer?
If you strain yogurt to make thick Greek-style yogurt or yogurt cheese, don't toss the liquid that's left over. This whey is full of nutrients and can be incorporated into many dishes, say hounds. It is not as tart as yogurt, so makes a more neutral ingredient. Use whey as part of the liquid in bread dough, pancake or waffle batter, or other baked goods, add it to soups or smoothies, or use it to cook oatmeal or other hot cereals.
Oh, and it's a beauty product too: ipsedixit shares her mom's secret for great skin:
• Stay out of the sun
• Facials with whey mixture
• Eat plenty of almonds and walnuts
Discuss: What to do with the liquid strained off yogurt?
Blondies, brownies' butterscotch-flavored siblings, can be loaded with nuts and chocolate chips or left plain to highlight the melding of butter and brown sugar. Dark brown sugar gives an intense butterscotch flavor, while light brown sugar makes for a mellower blondie.
"Whatever recipe you use," says bushwickgirl, "you can ramp up the richness of the blondie by browning the butter first."
Try these recipes on for size:
• CHOW's Nutty White Chocolate Blondies have a classic flavor combination.
• Martha Stewart's brown butter toffee blondies, "My favorite hands-down," says ladyberd.
• Smitten Kitchen's recipe is both incredibly simple and "infinitely adaptable," says Whats_For_Dinner; they have a dense and fudgy texture.
• Golden nut, fruit, and chip bars. "The combination of cherries, cashews, and chocolate chips with the brown sugar taste in the background is irresistible," veggielover says.
• Rubee loves Dorie Greenspan's peanuttiest blondies, made with crunchy peanut butter, chopped peanuts, and chocolate chips.
Discuss: Your Favorite Blondies Recipe?
Pork tenderloins are lean little roasts that cook quickly and take to many flavors. The trick is not to overcook them, as they dry out easily.
TorontoJo has discovered a foolproof method for cooking pork tenderloin: Season it as you wish, then heat a tablespoon or two of oil in an ovenproof skillet and sear the pork for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add a cup of liquid (Jo likes a combination of dry sherry or white wine and chicken broth) and roast at 400°F for 10 minutes. Remove to a plate and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. "I guarantee that this cooking method will always produce a tender, juicy tenderloin," says Jo.
Marinate pork tenderloins or rub them with a spice rub before searing and roasting. A popular way of seasoning is to make slits in the roast and insert slices of garlic and fresh rosemary or sage leaves. Another option is to butterfly the tenderloin and stuff it with aromatics, then tie it together and roast; Harters likes to use garlic and chopped dried prunes.
alanbarnes likes to use a glaze of raspberry jam, orange juice, and a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce for "sweet, smoky, spicy goodness." skippy66 suggests this seared pork tenderloin with cocoa spice rub.
Discuss: Pork tenderloin — simple recipe ideas
When avocados are perfectly ripe, simple preparations that highlight their rich flavor are in order.
• Avocado chimichurri bruschetta "really appeals to me when I want a rich, creamy lunch, [and] simple prep," says HillJ.
• Michael Chiarello's green goddess dressing, in which grilled avocados are a main ingredient.
• Cold avocado soup
• For the adventurous, avocado pound cake and chocolate avocado cake with avocado buttercream.
Should you have a surfeit of ripe avocados, freezing preserves them for later use surprisingly well. You can freeze prepared guacamole, "but you can also just freeze the avocado flesh for other uses," says goodhealthgourmet. "Halve, quarter, dice, or mash—whatever will be most convenient when you defrost—and store in freezer bags." She coats their surfaces with lemon or lime juice to preserve color. just_M freezes them whole, still in their skins.
Discuss: Help! Too many ripe avocados! Need recipes fast!
Is it hard to imagine putting away a head of cauliflower in one sitting? Many hounds say they could easily do just that if the cauliflower is roasted. "I've been roasting cauliflower for years," says lawmann, "and have made quite a few converts—people who never liked cauliflower until they tasted it done this way." And chowser says, "It's one vegetable my kids fight over."
The basic technique: Toss cauliflower florets with olive oil and salt, spread on a sheet pan, and roast at 425°F until tender and browned, about 25 minutes, turning once about halfway through. "Give a taste when they start looking pretty," advises eight_inch_pestle. QueenB Prefers to slice the head of cauliflower into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick slices because "you get more surface in contact with your pan, which gives more browning and flavor." Hounds recommend drying cauliflower well after washing for best results, and some let it drain and dry overnight in the fridge before roasting.
Cauliflower roasted with nothing but oil and salt is delicious, but "it's great with different spices and condiments—from curry to Dijon mustard to cumin," says chowser. BigSal is a fan of CHOW's Pepper-Roasted Cauliflower, which is seasoned with soy sauce. Others add a squeeze of lemon or some balsamic vinegar before roasting, or sprinkle with grated Parmesan when it comes out of the oven.
smtucker mashes roasted cauliflower into a purée. "Wonderful substitute for mashed potatoes under braised lamb shanks or duck legs," she says. "The braising juices coat the mash and it is delicious."
Discuss: OMG—Roasted Cauliflower
Many recipes using ricotta cheese are for sweets or heavy baked pasta dishes, but ricotta also stars in some simple pasta sauces and other savory treats. Fresh ricotta only makes these better.
Ricotta and vegetables combine to make easy pasta sauces. mcf purées ricotta, roasted red pepper, garlic, and olive oil and tosses with pasta; top with grated Parmesan and chopped parsley. cheesecake17 tosses pasta with ricotta, roasted broccoli, lemon zest, chopped Kalamata olives, salt, and pepper, thinning it with a bit of pasta cooking water.
jen kalb likes a simple Marcella Hazan recipe: Sauté chopped bacon, add baby peas and cook until peas are done; toss with pasta, then mix in ricotta, lots of pepper, and grated Parmesan or Pecorino.
Green Omnivore makes a white pizza with a mixture of ricotta, Parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses spread on the crust; bake the pizza, and when it comes out of the oven, top with arugula dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.
gwendolynmarie suggests combining ricotta, vegetables, and herbs to fill tarts or strudels made with puff pastry or phyllo. maplesugar recommends this herbed ricotta tart.
For crostini or sandwiches, consider CHOW's Herbed Ricotta Spread
Discuss: Fresh ricotta ideas (no sweets, please)
There are lots of ways to make great braised meats, and hounds employ variations on basic techniques depending on their preferences and the results they want.
The basic method starts by searing the meat, then adding liquid. They should come part way up the depth of the meat, not submerge it. If it is cooked in a Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid at a steady temperature, the meat will cook evenly, even if not turned. Many do turn the meat, though, so that both sides will be exposed to the braising liquid and so it won't stick. valerie spoons some of the braising liquid over the meat periodically, which is a good option when braising large roasts.
Braised foods taste even better a day or two after cooking, and some hounds make them in advance and chill the dish overnight to reheat and serve the next day. c oliver cooks the day before, removes the meat from the liquid and refrigerates the two separately. "I can then easily lift off the congealed fat which is hard to do if the meat is in the liquid," she says. valerie slices braised brisket, lays it in a clean Dutch oven, covers with the sauce, and refrigerates.
There are many methods of creating a sauce from the braising liquid. Straining out the vegetables and reducing the liquid concentrates its flavors and makes an elegant sauce. If you wish to thicken the liquid, you can purée some or all of the vegetables and mix them into the liquid, or simply purée it all together in the pot, using a hand blender. Or thicken the liquid using a cornstarch or arrowroot slurry or a beurre manie (equal parts flour and butter kneaded together). "The beurre manie just adds that extra touch from the butter," thinks jcattles.
Discuss: A Few Questions Beyond the Braising Basics